|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on July 31, 2018 at 10:10 PM|
As I said, I found the Lingala Code to be a pretty convincing blend of a spy thriller and a murder mystery, which isn’t easy, because the stakes of the spy situation can tend to swamp the stakes of the murder. In the action-packed final chapters, Michel finds himself in a race to not only prevent an attack on the embassy and an overthrow of his Congolese allies, but to prevent the escape of two traitors whom he has discovered are behind the murder.
The mystery itself had weaknesses and did not stick in my memory very well. I had to re-read three or four chapters to restore my memory of the main plot, which is not a great sign right there. I had remembered that the first officer of the embassy, who seemed like an annoying bureaucrat, turned out to a traitor working for the Russians who killed Michel’s colleague to prevent discovery. Right there it seems a little amateurish for the hero’s organizational enemy to turn out to be a traitor. Who of us does not work with someone who we sometimes wish would be caught in a prosecutable offense because they tend to block us and frustrate us in the workplace. But then we get over it – it’s not the basis for a mystery.
The second traitor, a UN translator who had been the dead man’s mistress, I didn’t even remember as a character. Once our hero has received strong evidence that these two are working together to get secrets to the Russians, Marcel has to do some detective work to figure out why they are working together and how that led to his friend’s death. But the detective work before that, that points him to the baddies, is done by others and doesn’t hold up to reflection. For example, in a late chapter he threatens the corrupt police chief in a vile fashion that destroyed my identification with the protagonist. The police chief names the killer as the one who bribed him to hire an assassin and then claim to have discovered the assassin was working alone. The other problem is this. From the very start, Marcel doesn’t trust the police chief, and doesn’t believe that the shooter worked alone. Furthermore, the reader discovers that the villain was known by the CIA (and Marcel) to be working for the Russians for years – they put him in place in the Congo in an attempt to feed misinformation to the enemy. The surprise to Marcel isn’t that his enemy was a traitor, but that he planned to make a break for it or had any reason to kill anyone. So Marcel has had a good suspect for the whole book, and the actions he took to pin the murder on him were saved for the end arbitrarily – since he suspected the chief at the outset and had the resources to threaten him at the outset, that could have been his first move instead of his last. There does seem to be some effort that went into collecting some funds to bribe the police chief first but since that doesn’t work, the delay seems arbitrary.
Categories: Edgar Winner Reviews (Spoilers)